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Demand for Civil War museum discussed

July 30, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

A planned National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, Pa., is probably far enough away from Hagerstown that it would not affect a push for a similar museum here, some elected city and county officials said Thursday.

"Harrisburg is a lovely town but it has no heritage," Hagerstown City Councilwoman Susan Saum-Wicklein said Thursday. Hagerstown is surrounded by Civil War heritage, she said.

Visitors to the Harrisburg museum who want to see a major Civil War battlefield would have to travel 60 miles to Gettysburg, Pa., whereas Hagerstown visitors could easily go to Antietam National Battlefield, Harpers Ferry, W.Va. and other sites, she said.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge announced Wednesday he was releasing $16.2 million for the approximately $38 million museum. Construction of the 60,000-square-foot museum may begin within a month and it could open as early as next summer.

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Harrisburg has acquired $16 million worth of Civil War artifacts since work on the project began around 1991, said Randy King, spokesman for Harrisburg Mayor Stephen R. Reed.

Plans are for the Harrisburg museum to get Smithsonian Institution affiliation so it can borrow Civil War artifacts, but affiliation status may not be known until after the museum opens, King said.

Plans for the proposed Civil War museum in Hagerstown also call for obtaining Smithsonian affiliation and borrowing exhibits.

Dennis E. Frye, spokesman for the nonprofit Antietam Creek Coalition Inc., which wants to build the $30 million to $40 million museum in Washington County, says the Harrisburg museum will not affect the group's plans.

The Hagerstown City Council voted Tuesday to give the coalition $37,500 to help pay for a study of a Civil War museum for Hagerstown. The study also would be used as part of an application for affiliation with the Smithsonian Institution.

Councilman Lewis Metzner, one of the four who voted to give the money, said he was shocked by the news of the Harrisburg museum and wished he had that information before the vote. Councilman William M. Breichner was the sole vote against granting the money.

Frye said he briefly mentioned general plans for the Harrisburg museum during a joint meeting of the City Council and the Washington County Commissioners but it was in response to a question and could have been missed.

The County Commissioners have not voted on whether to also give $37,500 for a study.

Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II, County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook and Commissioners Paul L. Swartz and John L. Schnebly say the two museums are far enough apart that the museum's construction should not hinder plans for the Hagerstown one.

Commissioner Bert L. Iseminger said the commissioners must determine demand for another museum.

He said a $39.3 million 118,000-square-foot museum and visitors center being built at Gettysburg National Military Park is scheduled for completion in three to four years.

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